Former South Whidbey High School boys soccer coach Emerson Robbins is turning his focus from the pitch to the printed page.
Robbins stepped down as the Falcons’ coach last spring after leading the team for seven years, ending a coaching career that spanned nearly four decades.
A chunk of that time was guiding Shoreline International teams, the subject of his book “We All Wore Blue.”
One reason he retired from the sidelines is to promote the book. He is also helping to shape the story into a television series.
“A successful L.A. writer/producer discovered my book and feels it would make for a great TV series,” Robbins said. “So after some discussions, we agreed a while ago to his writing the screenplay. He is just now putting the final touches on the script and will be ready to market it to the many agents and networks in the next few weeks.”
The screenwriter, who has limited knowledge about soccer, asked Robbins to provide his expertise.
“He feels my passion for the story and my upbeat personality will help our efforts in persuading a network to produce a series based on the book and our team story,” Robbins added.
“We All Wore Blue” is a story of Robbins’ Shoreline teams, whose rosters included mostly immigrant players spanning 16 countries.
“This team, over a few years time, was transformed from a team of mostly middle class white suburban kids into a team of mainly immigrants,” Robbins said. “This happened circumstantially, never by intention. It happened because I was in a position to help provide an opportunity for these players who otherwise may not have had the financial resources necessary to play club soccer.”
“Coaching this diverse team was an amazing experience that enriched not only the many players and their families, but my life as well,” he added.
Matter of Harmony
The story is less about soccer and more about people treating each other with respect, dignity and kindness, according to Robbins. It is about people of different races, nationalities and beliefs living in harmony.
“We were all immigrants at one point in time,” Robbins said. “Our story is about people celebrating their differences and working together towards a common cause, which I feel is an important lesson for our current times. This is my way of trying to make a difference.”
“We All Wore Blue” is Robbins’ second book. At one time, Robbins owned EE Robbins, stores that sold only engagement and wedding rings.
“I thought it might help the business and those who were romantically challenged to write a book about proposals,” he said. “So I ran a contest on the radio and in local newspapers for a few months, offering a trip to Hawaii, a one-carat diamond and several other valuable prizes for those who had the most creative and romantic proposal stories.”
He had a panel select the 99 most interesting proposals and put the stories into a book, “Popping the Question, Seattle Style.”
Robbins said he thoroughly enjoyed his time at South Whidbey High School, but he felt, for a number of reasons beyond promoting his book, last spring was the right time to retire.
He left with a large senior class, wanting to stick with them until they graduated. A sizable group of freshmen are expected to turn out this year, and Robbins said he does not have the energy to stick with them for four years.
“They deserve to have a coach who will start with them and stay with them throughout their high school years,” he said.
“Plus, I knew there were several highly qualified applicants for the job, which has not been the case the last few years. I just wanted to be sure to leave the program, which I had put my heart and soul into, in good hands, and I am confident that will now be the case.”
Richard Fuss was hired to take his place.
Along with South Whidbey girls soccer coach Terry Swanson and a group of parents, Robbins helped build the South Whidbey Youth Soccer Club into a strong feeder program for the high school. As a result, both the Falcon boys and girls teams recently won conference championships.
The development of the players from the youth teams through high school has also enabled many to play college soccer, he added.
As well as leading the Falcons to league titles and numerous postseason berths, Robbins’ Shoreline teams became a state power and won two state championships.
Robbins was named coach of the year in Seattle in 2007, state coach and western region coach of the year in 2008 and the runner-up to the national coach of the year award in 2009.
“Most of these honors had less to do with the success of my teams and more to do with my efforts in helping and mentoring the many immigrants on our very unique club team,” Robbins said.
He was also coach of the year in the Cascade Conference’s final year and the North Sound Conference’s first year.
“I believe that playing a sport provides many great opportunities to learn not only about the sport but many valuable life lessons as well,” he said. “I’ve always felt that being a good coach is really nothing more than being a helpful teacher and that what we can learn from playing sports can be just as beneficial as almost anything we learn in any class in school.”
Matt Simms, whose son Thomas played for Robbins, said, “He is a great coach who cares about more than just winning and losing. That’s not to say he doesn’t care about winning and losing, it’s just that a win or a loss is an effect and he focuses more on the cause.”
Robbins develops a culture of selflessness, according to Simms, and instills a strong work ethic in his players, teaches them to respect the game and their opponents and helps them develop strong technical and tactical skills.
“And then they go play,” Simms said. “Win or lose, at the end they thank the referees and shake the hand of each player and coach on the other team and take time to thank their fans for coming to watch. But thanks to the foundation built by coach Robbins, they probably won.”